The first text message I received was, “The previous owner is here…already had an objection.”
“Oh no!” I thought. This is a twist we did not anticipate. My friend, Deb, was at the Elizabeth Township Zoning Hearing Board meeting earlier this evening. My lawyer was presenting our case for a variance that would allow us to build the house and garage according to our plans. Throughout the meeting Deb informed me of the meeting’s progress through text messages.
We thought we were prepared for anything, but we did not anticipate the previous owner would object to our plans.
I breathed a little easier when I received the next message a few minutes later that said, “Lawyer doing great.”
After a few more messages about the meeting’s progress I received another surprising message, “They asked previous owner to leave. He kept interjecting.”
“What?” I thought. “What is going on?”
The next message said, “He stomped out…then sat in his car and blew the horn for several minutes.”
Then, “Lawyer for the zoning board apologized to your lawyer…said it was highly unusual!!! LOL”
I’ll say. Who would expect that?
The previous owner was offended that my lawyer referred to the church building as abandoned. The congregation had discontinued use of the building about 20 years ago. However, the previous owner faithfully went to the building each Sunday to pray. In his mind and according to his experience, the building was not abandoned. He felt it was his duty to protect the building from unfair characterizations. On the other hand, my lawyer’s strategy was to demonstrate that the building is derelict and I was going to rescue it. This difference brought them into conflict.
After the meeting, I received a text from the builder, Paul, who was also present. His assessment was, “The meeting was exciting. Your neighbor gentleman (the previous owner) is very passionate!”
I explained to Paul, “He has invested his life in that place, especially after loosing a couple loved ones in a terrible fire.”
Paul responded, “Wow, many times people’s responses are attached to something much deeper. You will have an opportunity to minister to him as a neighbor.”
I responded, “I hope so.”
In the end, the disturbance might have helped our cause. With very little discussion the Board approved our request for a variance. It might have been that everyone was too shocked to offer any objections!
So, we are one step closer to beginning construction.